Review: Griffin Technology Hi-Way for iPod
Pros: A protective ballistic nylon carrying case for the iPod Hi-Fi, providing one zippered pocket, two open mesh side pockets, and access holes for all of Hi-Fi’s key components (speakers, iPod dock, rear power and audio ports). Interior is padded and decently reinforced against some common knocks and scrapes. Includes detachable padded arm strap and nicely padded hand strap. Least expensive Hi-Fi case we’ve seen.
Cons: Looks like cheap luggage in many of the specifics, including wispy mesh interior and exterior pieces, and passive elastic access point to rear ports. Only one of pockets actually closes with a zipper. Not as protective as it could have been.
Back when Apple introduced its iPod Hi-Fi speaker system, we had two strong feelings about the design: it was a bit overpriced given its audio performance, but people were going to buy it anyway because of the Apple brand name. Time has passed and we remain comfortable with both of those conclusions: the $350, 14.5-pound speaker sells well for Apple, catering to people who are looking for simplicity and powerful sound. But two questions still remain: does anyone actually carry the iPod Hi-Fi around, given that it weighs 16.7 pounds with batteries? And is there really a market for Hi-Fi specific carrying cases?
Despite having seen little to no interest in Tunewear’s $295 Concerto Bianco leather case for iPod Hi-Fi, we’ll assume anyway that the answer is yes, and that you’re reading this because you’re happy with your Hi-Fi and looking for a reasonably priced way to tote it around. This month, two companies - Gecko Gear and Griffin Technology - released very similar iPod Hi-Fi carrying cases we wanted to briefly compare and review for those interested. Overall, our feeling is that Gecko’s Hi-Fi-Traveller ($75) is the better of the cases in almost all regards, but Griffin’s Hi-Way ($50) is an adequate alternative for people who want to spend less money and effort.
In essence, Australia-based Gecko’s bag is Hi-Way plus attention to little details. Both of the cases use ballistic nylon exteriors with padded fabric interiors, detachable padded carrying straps reinforced by metal clips and mounts, top-mounted hand straps, and plenty of pockets. But Hi-Fi-Traveller does each component a little better: its zippers are all custom-branded with its logo, all of its sides have rubber-coated bottom pieces, and the bag itself is hard-reinforced, while Hi-Way’s body sags.
Gecko also provides active protection for iPod Hi-Fi’s ports in a way that Hi-Way doesn’t. There’s a Velcro-sealed iPod dock hole on Gecko’s top, and a similar hole in its back for connection of a power or auxiliary audio cable. Griffin’s bag uses cheaper slits - the top one looks bad and is accessible only if you unzipper the case’s whole front; the back one is just a couple of pieces of elastic that bend open, revealing the case’s inexpensive padding material.
Those sorts of details carry through to other parts of both cases’ designs. Gecko went with a gray interior that has tailored inner edging and looks good at all points inside, including two layers of flaps - one mesh, one ballistic nylon and fabric - that cover the Hi-Fi’s front face with or without a grille on. You can remove both layers of front protection if you want Hi-Fi to scream unencumbered by coverage.
By contrast, Griffin’s all-black interior is simpler, with thin-feeling mesh covering the Hi-Fi’s face even when the bag’s open. It also had some stray strings that got caught in one of the zippers within our second or third day of usage, and the interior top surface around Hi-Fi’s iPod dock hole - made from what appears to be vinyl faux leather - looks sloppy. Other than pricing, Hi-Way’s only benefits over Hi-Fi-Traveller are small ones: its hand strap is better padded than Gecko’s and slides out of the bag’s top a little; there’s also one more rubber foot (five total) on its bottom surface.
Gecko’s design allows for a nicer two side-pockets - larger than Griffin’s two, here with sub-pockets made from mesh inside to hold small headphones or other accessories - and a similarly better large pocket that can hold Hi-Fi’s power cable and other items, such as your iPod, inside. Found on Traveller’s back, this pocket also has a mesh sub-pocket; Griffin’s “large” pocket is smaller, found on the case’s front, and equipped with a piece of stitched neoprene made to hold a few items in a similar fashion.
We’re not going to say that either of these bags is stylish or desirable - they’re both simple and functional, and quite like pieces of luggage. But if we had to carry our iPod Hi-Fi in either of them, we’d go with the Gecko bag for sure, despite the price difference. Superior padding and reinforcement helps it do a better job of protecting the iPod Hi-Fi against bumps and scrapes, and its pockets, flaps, and port holes make the Hi-Fi easier to use, and better-looking.
That said, Griffin has a huge distribution advantage, which combined with its $25 lower price means that you’re far more likely to find Hi-Way than Hi-Fi-Traveller in a local store, and want to buy it even though Traveller is the better design. Just as with cases and bags from Australia’s excellent STM, we’d advise you to take the time and skip over the pond for Hi-Fi-Traveller if you’re really in the market for a bag like this - you’ll be glad you did. But if the purchase of the iPod Hi-Fi left your pockets so empty that the price difference really matters, you’ll find Hi-Fi to be a bit better than okay, and only sloppy in a couple of details.